April 20, 2013
Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina opens play in the 77th-annual Southern Conference Men's Golf Championship this weekend, teeing off in the first round on Sunday, April 21 at the Ralston Creek Course on Daniel Island, S.C., and concluding on Tuesday, April 23.
The winner of the SoCon Championship will garner the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Regional while the individual medalist will also earn an automatic regional qualification should his team not advance to the regional.
Teams will had practice rounds on Saturday (April 20) by shotgun start beginning at 3:00 pm. The Catamounts started on No. 10 in their practice round. On Sunday, WCU will be paired with golfers from UNCG, hitting the course beginning at 8:00 am through 8:40 am.
It is the second-straight year that the SoCon tournament calls the Ralston Creek Course home. The 7,446-yard course was designed by Rees Jones and has hosted events such as the 2011 Nationwide Tour Championship.
"The Ralston Creek Course at the Daniel Island Club is a fantastic venue for a conference championship. I believe we are ready to embrace the challenge and put together a good run," said WCU head coach Carter Cheves.
The Southern Conference Men's Golf Championship has been played every season since 1933, aside from a four-year hiatus during World War II. The event boasts past champions such as Arnold Palmer (1948-49) and Brad Faxon (1983).
WCU has had three individual medalist all-time at the SoCon tournament including two-time winner, Matt Cook (2006, '08), with Bruce Kullman (1991) and Kelly Leonhardt (1987) all winning top honors. The Catamounts have never won the team championship, placing second back in 1986 with a pair of third-place finishes in consecutive seasons in 2008 and 2009.
Chattanooga claimed the 2012 tournament championship by 19 strokes over then defending event champion, Georgia Southern, a year ago. The Mocs had all four of its countable scores below par on the final round as UTC shot a seven-under, 281, as a team to claim victory by the largest margin since 2001.
The top returning finishers from the 2012 tournament are Chattanooga's Chris Robb and Wofford's Brennan Hudson, who were runners-up a year ago. The defending champion Mocs are the top-ranked SoCon team in this season's Golfstat rankings, checking in at No. 48 nationally. Georgia Southern is No. 53, while Davidson is No. 83 and College of Charleston is No. 91 to give the league four teams in the top 100. WCU ranks 127 in the most recent rankings.
Western Carolina looks to improve upon its 10th-place finish a year ago despite Poston's tie for 10th-place as a true freshman. He became the 14th different Catamount all-time to score a top-10 finish at the conference championship which helped him land on the SoCon All-Freshman team. The Catamounts look for their best finish at the event since placing fifth back in 2010.
The Catamounts enter this year's conference tournament ranked third in the SoCon in team stroke average this season, averaging 296.17 per round collectively. WCU is tied for fifth with seven Top 10 finishes this year.
Paced by the league's top individual in sophomore Scott Wolfes (1st, 71.50) - the 2012 Freshman of the Year - Georgia Southern leads the league with a team stroke average of 292.60 this season, just ahead of Chattanooga at 292.74. The Mocs boast two of the top five individual scorers in Steven Fox (3rd, 72.38) and Chriss Robb (4th, 73.19).
That trio is sandwiched around WCU's Poston, who enters the championship event ranked second in the SoCon with a scoring average of 71.93 through 29 rounds.
"The Southern Conference is very strong top to bottom this year and I expect it to be a great tournament," said Cheves. "Our team is excited and we're hoping to play the best golf we have played all year."
In addition to Poston in second, Western Carolina additionally has three other individuals who will go to the championship ranked inside the top 50 individuals in the SoCon. Senior Steven Smith ranks 22nd this season with a stroke average of 74.41, while junior Greg Bunner ranks 44th at 76.14 and redshirt sophomore Collin Witiak ranks 46th in the SoCon at 76.29 strokes per 18 holes. Those aforementioned four will be joined by junior Jack Walsh who ranks 61st overall in the league during the regular season at 77.36 strokes per round.
The tournament tees off at 8:00 am Sunday morning and fans can follow all of the action at GolfStat Results.